|"Yeah, I never said any of that stuff!"|
In March of 1985 Robert Funk, a well known New Testament scholar, presided over the first meeting of a group of scholars that he had convened, dubbed "the Jesus Seminar." Meeting on the campus of the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, the group embarked on an unprecedented project, to examine the available sources, canonical and non-canonical, in quest of "the voice of Jesus," i.e. "what he really said." The procedure would be as follows: the group would meet biennially, each meeting focusing on a particular set of sayings attributed to Jesus with discussion of previously circulated position papers, with the view to achieving a consensus on the authenticity or non-authenticity of each of the sayings. After discussion and debate a vote would be taken, with each participant casting a colored bead into a box. There would be four colors: red, indicating that Jesus undoubtedly said this, or something very close; pink, indicating that Jesus probably said something like this; gray, indicating that Jesus did not say this, though the idea(s) contained in it may reflect something of Jesus' own; and black, indicating that Jesus did not say anything like it, the saying in question reflecting a different or later tradition. Each color would be assigned a rating (red=3; pink=2; gray=1; black=0), and the results would be tabulated to achieve a "weighted average" on a scale of 1.00 (.7501 and up = red; .5001 to .7500 = pink; .2501 to .5000 = gray; .0000 to .2500 = black). The tabulated votes would be reflected in the published results, in which sayings attributed to Jesus would be color-coded, in a kind of "red-letter edition" of the gospels.
The Jesus Seminar proceeded in this fashion for six years, averaging around 30 participants per session. From time to time its results would be reported to the press, resulting in newspaper and magazine articles intended for public consumption. The attendant publicity was designed to guarantee an awareness of, and stimulate interest in, the work of the Jesus Seminar among the general public, and to create a ready readership for the published results. Part of the project was also the preparation of a new translation of the gospels, prepared by a group within the Seminar, known as "the Scholars Version." This translation, and the work of the Jesus Seminar as a whole, includes the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, preserved in a Coptic version as part of the Nag Hammadi Codices discovered in Upper Egypt in 1945. The results of all this work appeared in 1993: The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus, by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, published by Macmillan in New York. Meanwhile, the Jesus Seminar has embarked on a new phase, designed to answer the question, "What did Jesus really do?"
The Five Gospels includes an extensive Introduction, followed by the translation of, and commentary on, the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, and Thomas. After each segment ("pericope") of the gospels in which Jesus is quoted as saying something, commentary is provided explaining why the sayings were colored as they were. Special topics are treated in brief "cameo essays" scattered throughout the book. It should be noted that only 18% of the attributed sayings of Jesus are regarded by the Jesus Seminar as authentic, i.e. receiving a rating of either red or pink. Thus a full 82% of the sayings tradition is counted as inauthentic, i.e. rated as black or gray.
Damn I love stuff like this!
Just a little something for some of you Atheists to toss out during your next argument with that overbearing religious zealot in your family.